Few things can top the exuberance of the annual NCAA
basketball tournament. Sixty-eight teams enter and three weeks later a champion
emerges. To the delight of many Butler, a small university in Indiana, will
face another less famous basketball school, Virginia Commonwealth, in a Final
Four matchup. What is not to cheer about?
Unfortunately the other side of the bracket features two
schools helmed by coaches who know what it means to cross the line, as in
breaking the rules. University of Connecticut’s head coach, Jim Calhoun, has
won two national titles but more recently has been reprimanded for recruiting infractions. He will serve a three-game suspension next season for those transgressions.
UConn faces a legendary basketball powerhouse, the
University of Kentucky. Its current head coach John Calipari may not have
written the book on cheating in college basketball but he has certainly added a
footnote–the only coach to have two Final Four appearances at two different
schools (Massachusetts and Memphis) vacated due to NCAA infractions. Calipari himself was not found guilty of wrongdoing, but it strains credulity to think he did
not know, or chose not to know, of the rule breaking that occurred under his
Fans of such schools may say, “Every college cheats.” And
they may be right to a degree. Earlier this month Ohio State gave its head
coach Jim Tressel a slap on the wrist after he lied to
the NCAA about infractions his football players had committed.
Cheating is cheating, and when schools go along with it,
they betray the trust that students put in them as institutions of higher
learning. By condoning, or in the case of Kentucky, hiring a coach with a
questionable past, says it’s all right to cut corners. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
A good friend of mine is fond of saying, “There are no
virgins in big time college athletics.” He is not referring to sexual mores, but
to recruiting and retention practices that schools perpetrate in order to keep
athletes eligible to compete. Why? Because such athletes bring in millions to
the school in revenue. It’s about the money, pure and simple.
Every once in awhile a hue and cry is raised about
corruption in collegiate athletics, but after the shouting dies down little is
down. Sanctions may be imposed, but cheating continues at other schools.
The right thing to do is ban the cheaters. Indiana
University kicked out Kelvin Sampson after he committed recruiting violations,
after doing the very same at Oklahoma State University. The legendary program still
has not recovered its winning ways, but it maintains its integrity. This year
the University of Tennessee showed its backbone by dumping its successful, and
popular, head coach Bruce Pearl after he had lied to the NCAA.
Ultimately college athletics must stand for something more
than wins and losses. The responsibility to its student athletes means more
that ensuring they do not cheat. It means ensuring those in positions of
authority hold themselves to even higher standards of accountability.
Discipline those coaches who break the rules by banning them
from the game.
John Baldoni is an internationally
recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and
speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25
leadership experts. John’s newest book is 12 Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert
Your Authority to Lead. (Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com.